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ESG Marks 50 Years of Educational Innovation

The Experimental Study Group (ESG), MIT’s original first-year learning community, will celebrate its 50th anniversary in April. Founded in 1969 as an alternative to the large lecture-hall format, ESG allowed students to complete MIT’s core curriculum in science and humanities through independent study and  collaboration. Over the next few years ESG evolved rapidly to offer the core curriculum in a small class format (typically 8-12 students). ESG continues to innovate inside and outside the classroom, with experimentation in curriculum, teaching style, and subject development. ESG also offers a range of additional seminars and classes not readily available outside of ESG and open to all undergraduates.

While much has changed over the last half-century, ESG retains its founding principles of exploration, peer teaching and learning, collaboration among students and instructors, and self-discovery within a supportive academic community. ESG encourages students to identify their academic passions and take responsibility for their own educational paths.

To celebrate this 50-year milestone, ESG will host a “Day of Learning” on Friday, April 3, 2020. The day begins with a screening of the ESG documentary Experimental, a journey through 50 years of experimental education told through the stories of five decades of ESG alumni, staff, current students, and other key players. In the afternoon, participants will experience a series of ESG-flavored, interactive learning sessions designed collaboratively by ESG students and staff. Topics include concepts of the infinite in mathematics, elements of peer teaching, how to get into “the zone” for optimal performance, writing without teachers, developing a new philosophical language, and encoded storytelling through khipu. The MIT community is invited to participate and to experience how ESG creates a community of learners. For information and registration, take a look at our promo video and please visit the ESG anniversary website.

— Bettina McGimsey, ESG